Earlier this week, news broke that owner Ron Paolucci is leaving the game following a series of run-ins with people and organizations he called “the racing elite.” Paolucci (whose horses run under the moniker Loooch Racing Stables) was second among all North American owners with 159 wins in 2017, so this is not a small-time operation that’s being dissolved.
I’m partial to strong personalities and owners who aren’t afraid to run their horses in big spots (it was the shoe of his horse that wound up in Gun Runner’s tail during last year’s Whitney!). That latter point hits home in an age where field sizes at the top end of the sport seem to be getting smaller with every passing year. I’ve never met Mr. Paolucci, but it seems like he’s done a lot of good for the sport of horse racing, and I sincerely hope he reconsiders his decision.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Monteleone could not have broken worse in the third at Saratoga and lost all chance immediately. We dropped $22.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to try to extract some value from my best bet of the day, which is #2 NITROUS in the sixth. I’ll play $10 doubles that start in the fifth (which strikes me as a fun betting race) and use #8 SHAPE SHIFTER and #9 OUR GIRL ABBY.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
Best Bet: Nitrous, Race 6
Longshot: Whiskey Echo, Race 9
DUBB ENTRY: I prefer FORGE, who ran a clunker last time out but reeled off three wins in a row before that. He drops down in class for aggressive connections, and while J S BACH isn’t poorly meant, the former’s the reason the entry will be a short-priced favorite; HELOOKSTHEPART: Makes his 50th career start in this spot, and has proven himself as a hard-trying veteran that can come running late. There’s plenty of pace in this race, and he may be going best of all in the final furlong; FULL SALUTE: Didn’t break well last time out and was out of his element as a result. He was claimed by Rudy Rodriguez that day and figures to be a pace factor with a clean start.
DIGITAL FOOTPRINT: Is bred up and down for grass and put forth a solid local drill on the training track’s turf course. He’s by Giant’s Causeway, out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare, and trained by Chad Brown, one of the best first-out turf trainers in the country; SEANOW: Didn’t do much running in his debut, but is bred to want every bit of this two-turn route. Improvement is logical at second asking, and one could do worse than trusting the Pletcher/Velazquez tandem; ONE MISSION: Merits a look at a big price. He broke terribly in his debut, but adds blinkers and distance for Bill Mott, whose horses often get better with experience.
AWESOME SLEW: Has been chasing some of the top one-turn horses in the country and merits respect in this loaded allowance event. The seven-furlong trip should hit him right between the eyes, and there should be plenty of pace for him to rate behind; WONDERFUL LIGHT: Just missed in a similarly strong allowance at Belmont, where he beat graded stakes winner Stallwalkin’ Dude (among others). He’s never missed the board in seven lifetime starts, and Franco’s piloted him to two of his three wins; BEHAVIORAL BIAS: Has finished in the money in 10 of 11 starts and broke his maiden here last summer. He was beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Commonwealth and adds blinkers for a barn hitting at 29% this year.
Plans to Prosper
WINDJAMMER: Is a pace play in a wide-open turf event where I’d suggest hitting the “ALL” button in multi-race exotics wagers. The slight cutback in distance should help her, and I’m hoping she gets brave on the front end; GENTLE RULER: May have bounced a bit last time out off a big effort two back in what was her first start in almost six months. If she repeats the two-back effort (where she was narrowly beaten by two next-out winners), she could provide some value; PLANS TO PROSPER: Was beaten less than a length at this level last time out and gets a positive rider switch to John Velazquez. I’m not sure about the horses she faced that day, but she could improve given the new jockey and a return to a two-turn route of ground.
Our Girl Abby
SHAPE SHIFTER: Raced greenly last time out at Laurel Park, but was a runaway winner two and three back in her first two dirt starts. A return to that form would make her tough to beat, especially given the class drop; OUR GIRL ABBY: Responded to the drop in class with a runaway win last time out at Gulfstream Park. She was claimed by Danny Gargan that day, and while she does take a step up, it’s possible she may have finally found the appropriate level; TEE UP: Hasn’t won in a while, but showed improvement in her last two outings, when she was second against similar foes downstate. She should be prominent early, and could hold on for a share at a price.
NITROUS: Did everything but win first time out at Churchill Downs, when he was beaten a neck and topped the third-place finisher by more than five lengths. A repeat of that race will make him tough, and we may get an acceptable price given the large field; COAST: Merits a look if he draws in off the AE list. He fetched $500,000 at auction earlier this year and has worked well for Todd Pletcher, but needs a scratch to make his debut in this spot; FED FEVER: Has worked well of late for George Weaver, whose barn is quietly one of the best on the circuit with first-time starters.
Hello Don Julio
CALL PROVISION: Always seems to fire a big shot and did not disgrace himself when fourth in a pair of graded events earlier this year. He figures to get a pace to run at, and it helps that he’s won twice over this turf course; HELLO DON JULIO: Seems like the main speed in here, and is another that’s been running against some very strong turf horses. A repeat of his win here last August would make him a major player; PATTERSON CROSS: Looks much more formidable if you toss the Mac Diarmida effort, which was his first outing in more than 11 months. Draw a line through that race, and you have a runner that hasn’t run poorly since late-2016, one that could come flying late.
FIRST APPEAL: Ran well here three times last summer, notching two wins and a third-place finish in 24 days. Horses that are proven to love this route of ground always get extra consideration, and she’ll be tough if she can channel that form in this turf sprint; REALLY PROUD: Ran well two back in a listed stakes race, but may have moved too early last time out at Belmont. The slight cutback should help her, and she could sit a perfect stalking trip; BATTLE JOINED: Put it all together last time out in winning a swiftly-run maiden race. A similar effort would make her competitive here, but she must work out a trip from a far outside post.
SOMBEYAY: Has had gate issues, but is less than a length away from being 2-for-2 heading into this year’s Sanford. The rail draw is less than ideal for a horse that’s found trouble this often, but it sure seems like there’s lots of talent here; WHISKEY ECHO: Won like a 1/2 shot should in his debut and gets Lasix for the first time here. His July 9th workout was sharp, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., staying aboard is a plus; LEXITONIAN: Was professional in his debut, which he won by a length after rating just off the pace. He may be the less-fancied of Todd Pletcher’s runners, but he could still win with a logical step forward.
A Raving Beauty
SISTERCHARLIE: Spotted the leader nearly 30 lengths in the Grade 2 New York, but still nearly managed to get home first. Her effort two back in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley was sensational, and she’ll be tough to beat with that kind of performance; A RAVING BEAUTY: Is 2 for 2 since coming to America and won the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out. This is her first try going two turns since coming across the pond, but nothing says she can’t get that trip; PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Loves Saratoga and merits respect based on the races she ran here a season ago. She won the Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 3 Lake George, and she was less than a length behind my second selection last time out.
HIEROGLYPHICS: Won here twice last summer, including when he took a $100,000 stakes race over some very solid runners. He hasn’t won since and takes a big class drop to run for a $50,000 tag, which could wake him up in a big way; MONSTER BEA: Hasn’t won in a long time, but has chased graded stakes-caliber horses for most of that stretch. He’s another for whom this race represents a drop in class; TEAM COLORS: Beat similar competition last time out at Belmont in his first start for Jimmy Jerkens. A repeat of that effort could win, but navigating a trip from the 11-hole on this turf course is no easy task.